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A new epoch in geological history?

Simon answers the Guardian's questions on the Anthropocene

A new epoch in geological history?

In a Guardian podcast on 20th May 2021, Dr Simon Turner (UCL Geography) responded to questions from Anand Jagatia on, ‘Have we entered the Anthropocene – a new epoch in Earth’s history?’

Simon is secretary of the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), established a decade ago under the auspices of the International Union of Geological Sciences to gather evidence on whether we have entered a new chapter in Earth history, with the ‘Anthropocene’ thus meriting recognition as an official unit of geological time.

Has human activity become so pervasive during the 20th century as to justify recognising a ‘Global Spike’ marking long lasting global changes and a new epoch? Have humans thus become a geological force, and what are the implications of the scale and pace of change for the fossil record?

The Working Group is focusing on 11 sites globally, collating evidence for change over the last 150 years in diverse sediment successions, including estuaries, lakes, ice cores and the deep sea. UCL Geography (Simon Turner, Neil Rose, Sarah Roberts, Handong Yang) is playing a pivotal role in the research, providing scientific coordination, radionuclide dating and spheroidal carbonaceous particle (SCP) analyses for the sites. The AWG plans to publish its first conclusions in December 2022.

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